THERE'S some good news for the red meat industry – export sales for the year ro far are up 18% on last year.

While on the face of it red meat has been demonised by the vegan brigade and wrongly so for its role in climate change, the sales figures gathered by industry analysts at AHDB, show that exports of red meat and offal from the UK have enjoyed a strong start to the year, with shipments surpassing 300,000 tonnes.

According to the latest HMRC figures, more than £711m-worth of beef, lamb and pork products were shipped around the world in the first six months of the year. This is a rise of 8% compared to last year, when red meat exports stood at £658m.

Figures show exports of pork and pig meat products rose from 166,000 to 183,000 tonnes, worth £268m – an increase of 15%. Almost half of the shipments were to non-EU third-country markets.

The prevailing African swine fever situation had driven demand for imported pork across the Asian region, and particularly in China. From January to June, the UK saw shipments increase by 56% to 57,000 tonnes, representing 35% of total UK pig meat exports.

Total beef and beef offal exports have risen by 13% to 86,000 tonnes. Beef volumes increased by nearly 11% while the rise in beef offal exports was more marked at 21%. Sheep meat exports grew by 24% in the first half of 2019 to 47,000 tonnes, driven by EU markets, with shipments increasing by 25% – probably down to the low value of sterling, which has helped produce a more favourable trading environment for the UK as an exporter.

AHDB’s head of Asia Pacific, Jonathan Eckley, said: “It has been a very strong start to the year for our red meat exports with growth across all three categories. The low sterling value has undoubtedly been a driving factor and higher pork shipments have been driven by demand from China, which continues to be an important market for the UK.

“While it’s unclear at present what impact Brexit will have on the EU market for UK red meat exports, AHDB will continue to look at new markets outside of the EU and aim to build on these impressive figures for the foreseeable future,” he added.